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Monday, February 20, 2012

Pulsars: Fantastic Physics

pulsar is a highly magnetized, rotating neutron star that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation. This radiation can only be observed when the beam of emission is pointing towards the Earth, much the way a lighthouse can only be seen when the light is pointed in the direction of an observer, and is responsible for the pulsed appearance of emission. Neutron stars are very dense, and have short, regular rotational periods. This produces a very precise interval, between pulses that range from roughly milliseconds to seconds for an individual pulsar.
The precise periods of pulsars makes them useful tools. Observations of a pulsar in a binary neutron star system were used to indirectly confirm the existence of gravitational radiation. The first extrasolar planets were discovered around a pulsar, PSR B1257+12. Certain types of pulsars rival atomic clocks in their accuracy in keeping time. (Wikipedia)
Pulsars, superdense neutron stars, are perhaps the most extraordinary physics laboratories in the Universe. Research on these extreme and exotic objects already has produced two Nobel Prizes. Pulsar researchers now are poised to learn otherwise-unavailable details of nuclear physics, to test General Relativity in conditions of extremely strong gravity, and to directly detect gravitational waves with a "telescope" nearly the size of our Galaxy. (PhysOrg)

Hear the sound and watch the video:
pulsar-psr0950+08-nrao.wav (credit:

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